One great hope I have, and one borne out by Scripture, is that my future destiny, after my earthly death, is embodiment in a recreated Heaven and Earth, not a disembodied state of pure spirit or some ghostly, quasi-physical existence. It's not really true, as REM's Michael Stipe sang, that "it's the end of the world as we know it." No, we'll still know it, still be very much physical, still one day be reunited with a recreated body.
Though I'm not much to look at, I can tell you I would miss having a body. I would miss a great many things like eating, for example, or hearing and speaking words, touching things, and all the very sensuality (rightly understood) of life. Think about touch for a moment -- the feel of water, earth, the head of your child, the warmth of the sun on skin, the sound of a great song like "Roundabout." I examine my hands and stare in the mirror and know that for better or worse this is uniquely me, and despite its current imperfection, I do not want to lose the physical nature of what is only me. Yes, I'd like to lose 20 pounds, muscle up, and retain all my hair, but I really do not want to be someone else. I want to be me.
The incarnation is a great affirmation by God that physical reality -- including our bodies -- matters. We are not just souls but body and soul, united together for eternity though temporarily separated at death. In other words, in a recreated earth I still get to be me, the me God intended me to be, shorn of imperfection and sin.
It's essential that we maintain this union of body and soul. As a friend once told me, when he comes to my funeral he wants to see a body. I think he wants to be reminded that I am body and soul and that he will see me -- the me that is physical -- again. I appreciated this sentiment though I hope such honor tarries for a while yet.
You might ask what all the fuss is over what we might call "embodiment." I like what Anthiny Esolen said about the body in a recent article in Touchstone: "It is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It was fashioned by the finger of God. It will be wedded to Christ. Even after the breath has departed, in its presence we should bow, for it is a holy place, the loveliest of all physical creatures, upon whose face is marked that godlike dominion granted to innocent Adam in the beginning."
Others have explored the meaning of embodiment far better than I can or will, but for me it comes home when I look to my mother who now, at 79, is less of what she was. She is suffering from Alzheimers. When she forgets who I am, will she still be there, or will it be just a body? No, she's absolutely there, though diminished physically. This is how Gilbert Meilander puts the question in another article in Touchstone: "When these patients -- some of them us, of course [those suffering from Alzheimers] -- no longer know or can tell us who they are, when every face they see or paper they pick up (even if for the hundredth time) is a strange and new experience, will we still retain the human wisdom -- the philosophical and theological resources -- to affirm that such a living human body is also and still a place of personal presence?" If we do not believe that the body is inseparably united with a soul, we might well view such diminished bodies as less than human, with souls that have departed. I hope not. Somewhere behind the forgetfulness, my mother, the person that is uniquely her, is there, and is valuable. In fact, when you think of it, the bodies we now have, valuable as they are, are much less human than what they were intended to be or will be in their resurrected state. God could have said "what a mess," or "how tragic," and put us out of our misery. That He did not is a testimony to His character, His love of His creation, and the value we have. Diminished though we be, he sees our soul and knows we are still here.
I'm glad to be me. I look forward to being more of all that is uniquely me one day. For now, I'll make do.